West Lake Hills City Council met July 14 to approve an election services contract with Travis County in the event the city moves forward with a November bond election roughly four years in the making.
If pursued, the bond of more than $20 million could fund the city’s critical infrastructure needs, which include a list of drainage and roadway improvements as well as the construction of a new City Hall and police building. This bond package was initially scheduled for a May 2020 election but was later canceled by council as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its fiscal repercussions.
The approved contract states the county would handle the bulk of election duties Nov. 2; however, Mayor Linda Anthony clarified this agreement can be canceled in the future if council decides against an election.
“We can always cancel should we choose not to go forward, but it is my hope that tonight and with future discussion and subsequent meeting, we opt to move forward with a November bond election,” Anthony said to council.
Due to estimated cost increases, the complete bond package will likely feature changes from the original plan. During a previous June council meeting, Anthony said the bond initially totaling $22 million in May 2020 would cost $25 million today.
As a result, council is considering removing two projects from the potential list: improvements to the Eanes Creek low-water crossing and Terrace Mountain Drive. Alternative funding sources, including Federal Emergency Management Agency dollars, may be used in the future. Doing so would decrease the bond’s total cost by roughly $3 million and bring the city closer to its initial $22 million package.
The remaining roadway and drainage projects pertain to Laurel Valley Road, Redbud Trail, Westlake Drive and Yaupon Drive—all of which exist in the same drainage basin, according to Anthony, who said they should be tackled together. “We really need to consider all of them together because they impact each other,” Anthony said. “Westlake and Redbud Trail are our arterial streets, and they’re in pretty bad shape. They were in bad shape when we included them in the bond package; they’ve only gotten worse.”
Prior to its cancellation, council was in favor of a bond with a shorter term of debt, which Anthony said would mean a higher tax increase for residents but would also reduce the outstanding debt faster. As of the July 14 meeting, council members were still in alignment with this plan.
Several members, including Darin Walker and Brian Plunkett, expressed the desire to take advantage of the current historically low debt interest rates.
Council could review a drafted election ordinance as well as more specific cost estimates at the upcoming July 28 meeting, City Administrator Travis Askey said. The deadline to call a November bond is Aug. 16.